Nathaniel Irwin's progeny were very fruitful, so he has been left with an army of proud descendants. There are several resources available, especially in Burke County, North Carolina, where the family certainly had left a mark.
Genealogy, especially with the arrival of electronically available research, has become as common a hobby as collecting baseball cards or Coca Cola memorabilia.
In earlier eras, however, communities were fortunate if they were gifted with one studious individual, who sought out to preserve the areas records and history, or that of their own family. Some of these community, or family historians, sought accuracy and actuality. With others, it seems to been a "My Grandpa could beat up your Grandpa", sort of thing. Every ancestor was a valiant Patriot, a person of vast wealth and honor, wielding a sword in one hand and a bible in the other, carving their way through the wilderness and protecting the meek and weak. No one was descended from the cowards who ran from the fight, or the Tories, who thought they were supporting their country (as their country was a British Colony at the time), or people who did mean or underhanded things, these things that happened, but swept under the rug, like burning people out of their homes or massacring a village for land.
Those evil persons must have been sterile and produced no descendants. This is how Christopher Columbus gained his own holiday. Currently, while people are uncovering truth, as ugly as it may become, instead of trying to embellish history due to social stigma's, it has been discovered what a torturously evil person Christopher Columbus was, certainly not deserving of any celebration, no matter what his achievements.
So, in searching through the sometimes conflicting information on Nathaniel Erwin/Irwin, I've tried to concentrate on what the various histories agree on and the information that is most likely to be fact and not fallacy.
Since the family line from which I descend ended up sticking with the spelling "Erwin", that is what I will stick with from here on.
Nathaniel Erwin was the fifth of the 6 children of a miller named Mathew Erwin and his wife Elizabeth Patterson Erwin. Although the Erwin's were born and raised in Ireland, they were not Irish, but Scottish.
David Irvine, father of Mathew and grandfather of Nathaniel, was born in 1646 at Drum Castle near Aberdeen Scotland to a Robert and Elizabeth Wylie Irvine. This was a tumultuous time in history in the British Isles. Religious persecution and limitations were high. David left his home country to escape these conditions and was married in 1663 a lady named Sophia Gault in County Ulster in Northern Ireland. With financial aid from family in Scotland, he opened a linen mill in County Antrim and raised 5 children of which Mathew was the next to the youngest.
Mathew may have been seeking either religious freedom or economic opportunity when he and Elizabeth sailed with their primarily adult children to America. We know that for awhile, they settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and records indicate that they moved around quite a bit. Both of them ended their days in Augusta County, Virginia with Mathew dying in 1755 and Elizabeth in 1762.
Nathaniel, born about 1713 in Glencoe, County Ulster, was an adult and married prior to the families immigration to America. He and wife Mary Faulk were married in Glencoe in 1732. She was 20 and he was 19. There seems to be difference of opinion about exactly which children of Nathaniel Erwin's were of his wife Mary and which were of his second wife, Leah Julian. What seems to be agreed upon, however, that at least some of the older children of Nathaniel and Mary were born in Ireland.
Mary passed away sometime after arriving in America. When and where is unknown. What is known is that Nathaniel married Leah Julian, daughter of George Julian and Martha Denton Julian from Cecil County, Maryland. They settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where at least two children, my ancestor Alexander Erwin and his sister Abigail, who would become Mrs. Thomas Polk, were born. The township is recorded as being "Fagg's Manor".
Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church is located now in what is Chester County, Pennsylvania. The area was settled primarily by Scotch Irish Presbyterians, and Faggs Manor is said to be one of the oldest and most diligent of the the churchs. It would make sense that a devout Presbyterian such as Nathaniel Erwin would gravitate there.
It is clearly recorded that son Alexander was a Revolutionary War Patriot, and remained in such spirit for the remainder of his life. However, it is also recorded that father Nathaniel played his part in the Revolution, and records do exist of the service of a 'Nathaniel Irwin'. What I am not certain of, is that this is the correct Nathaniel. Could it have been a son or a nephew? Nathaniel Erwin, father of Alexander, would have been around 60 years old in 1773, and even older still during the most active days of the campaign in the early 1780's.
Nathaniel Erwin and his family moved to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina about the mid-1760's. It is recorded that a Nathaniel Erwin was a member of the Mecklenburg militia in 1777. He and his second wife Leah, spent their last days just south of Mecklenburg County, in York County, South Carolina. His will was recorded in the York County Courthouse and is dated 13 December, 1793.
As my roots run from all directions from the Rocky River, and those of my father's side, along the Coddle Creek area of Cabarrus, and the Rocky River Presbyterian Church area, so did the Erwins dip their toes in this water as well, at some point.
From Mecklenburg, North Carolina records: July Session, Mecklenburg County Court, 1767 "This Indenture .....between the Honorable Henry Eustace McCullough (k), Esq. on one part and Nathaniel Erwin of Mecklenburg County, in said province of North Carolina, aforesaid, planter, on the North side of Coddle Creek, a branch of the Rocky River..."
Aside from discrepancies in who took part in the Revolution, there are also different trains of thought on actual number of children, names of children and date of birth. One train of thought suggests Nathaniel was born in 1743, instead of 1813. This of course, would render him incapable of being the father of his supposed son Alexander, born in 1749. I would tend to think that some records attributed to Nathaniel, the father, should most likely be attributed to a different Nathaniel. Either his son, as one of his youngest sons was Nathaniel, Jr., or the son of one of his brothers, who also migrated in the same times and areas as he did.
In York County, South Carolina, Minutes of the County Court, Book A, April 1790, page 267, Nathaniel Irwin is "appointed overseer of the road from Sturgis to the North Carolina line." I do not know how sturdy Nathaniel would have been at that age, well into his 70's, or what exactly the job of overseer entailed. Was he just to appoint workers and ensure that the work was done, or was he expected to perform actual physical labor? If this was our senior Nathaniel, perhaps it was the building of this road that contributed to his death, as his stone in York County, South Carolina is marked "1794".
The inscription on the tombstone of Nathaniel Irwin in Bethesda Cemetery, is said to contain incorrect information. The tombstone reads:
In Memory of Nathaniel Erwin
Born in Ulster Province, Ireland, 1713
Married Leah Julian in 1733
Migrated to America in 1740
Settled in Bucks County, PA for awhile
Moved to Mecklenburg County, NC about 1768
Engaged in active military service from 1773 - 1783
Later Moved to York County, SC
Died Feb 18, 1794 in this vicinity
Right off the bat, we can see that he could not have married Leah Julian, who was from Maryland in 1733, and then migrated seven years later. The arrival in Mecklenburg County, NC is probably close to being correct. His date of death is not disputed.
Another fact concerning Nathaniel that is not disputed is that he was a minister, a devout Presbyterian, and he passed that faith and discipline on to his children and grandchildren. His grand-daughter Polly, from whom I descend, married a charismatic and well-traveled Presbyterian minister named John McCamey Wilson. For extra income, Nathaniel was also a planter, a carpenter, and a maker of spinning wheels.
It is not known how long Nathaniel stayed in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He did purchase land along the Rocky River and Coddle Creek in 1767. His only time in Mecklenburg may have been in this year, to settle the estate of his father. On October 21, 1767, a letter of administration was granted to "Nathaniel Irwyn" on the estate of "Mathew Irwyn".
York County History article (from SC Magazine of Ancestral Research)
The Erwinbagpiper.com states that "articles on the Catawba Indian problems in the Piedmont area of the Carolinas places Nathaniel in the 'Catawba Nation' as late as 1775." This means that at least Nathaniel and his wife Leah, were living on Indian land and among the Catawba's in their later years.
In a brief history of the Catawba tribe, it states that they were given a reservation, on both sides of the Catawba river, of 15 miles square, in what is now York and Lancaster Counties in South Carolina, around the year 1763. The area known as "Indian Land" that Nathaniel Erwin moved to and spent his last years in was in what is now York, Lancaster and Chester counties. Thomas Spratt and his family, are said to be the first colonists to settle and live among the Catawba.
Thomas Spratt is known as the first person to cross the Yadkin River with wheels and his daughter Anne, to be the first white child born between the Yadkin and Catawba rivers. * Spratt, along with Nathaniel Erwin and three others, was appointed interlopers, or agents, to stand for the Catawba's in representation during meetings with the state governments by the Governor of South Carolina. These few families were living on tribal grounds, at the time, and were given tracts of land around the time of the American Revolution.
(*Historic Charlotte: An Illustrated History of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County
By Dan L. Morrill))
After the Treaty of August, however, in 1773, all European settlers within the boundaries of the Catawba Nation were made to leave. Nathaniel and Leah returned to North Carolina, as their youngest son, Nathaniel, was born in Rowan County in 1776. Prior to that, his son James was born in Burke County, showing that Nathaniel was a bit of a wanderer. He must have liked the beauty of the foothills of Burke County, because he founded a plantation there called "Cherry Fields", that would be taken up by his sons after his death.
Perhaps the traveling had much to do with his additional career as a Presbyterian minister. Many of the traipsed the highways and byways of early America spreading the gospel. Nathaniel is thought to have been one of the founding members, and perhaps even one of the early ministers of Bethesda Presbyterian Church, in York County, where he is buried.
History of Bethesda Presbyterian Church
The will of Nathaniel Erwin was recorded in the York County, South Carolina Courthouse, CR # 0065 File Number 3082:
In the name of God Amen. December the thirteenth Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and ninety three. I, Nathaniel Irwin of the County of York, and state of South Carolina, being weak of body but sensible and of perfect mind and memory, thanks to God, calling to mind mortally I recommend my Soul to God, and my body to the earth, and as touching my worldly estate I give, devise and bequeath in the following manner, that is to say,
I give and bequeath to my beloved Son in law and daughter- Abraham and Mary Roach - thirty pounds Virginia money, three cows, four sheep, to be levied out of my estate.
Likewise I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Abigail Irwin one hundred pounds North currency to be levied out of my personal estate. I give and bequeath to my beloved son Alexander Irwin, one fourth part of my real estate, that is my lands and messuages and tenements according to quantity and quality of the same.
I give and devise to my beloved son William Irwin one fourth of my real estate, that is my lands, messuages and tenements.
I likewise give and devise to my beloved son Nathaniel Irwin one fourth part of my real estate, to be divided according to quantity and quality.
I likewise give and devise to my beloved son James Irwin one fourth part of my real estate, to be divided according to quantity and quality.
I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Susanna Irwin fifty pounds prock to be levied out of my estate.
I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Suffia Irwin fifty pounds prock to be levied out of my estate.
My beloved wife Leah Irwin to enjoy the mansion house during her life or widowhood. I likewise constitute and appoint my beloved wife Leah Irwin and my brother in law Jacob Julian my sole executrix and executor of this my last will and testament, and no vendue to be made, the rest of my estate not mentioned to be ordered according to their will, and as they think best, to be conducted with their schooling and clothing of the children - and revoke all other will and wills, legacies and bequests, and acknowledge this as my last will and testament the day and year above, witness my hand and seal -
Signed, Sealed, Published and Pronounced
by said Nathaniel Irwin, as his last Will and Testament in presence of us:
Wm Kerr, Nat Irwin, Wm Elliott, John F Garrison, Mark Garrison, Isaac Garrison
An inventory of his estate indicates a man of wealth and stature, more than the usual lot of livestock and tools, he possessed luxury items such as a stage wagon, in addition to his road wagon, a silver watch, a large number of books, 3 feather beds, several horses, harnesses with bells, and a ladies saddle. And as did most planters of the time, he also owned slaves.
In February of 1796, the three youngest children of Nathaniel Erwin were brought to court to be assigned guardians, as their mother Leah, had remarried in an uncommon fashion, and was found to not be taking care of the children. And that is a story of its own.